Romanitas


When therefore the choice of the chief priest is taken in hand, let him be preferred before all whom the unanimous consent of clergy and people demands, but if the votes chance to be divided between two persons, the judgment of the metropolitan should prefer him who is supported by the preponderance of votes and merits: only let no one be ordained against the express wishes of the place: lest a city should either despise or hate a bishop whom they did not choose, and lamentably fall away from religion because they have not been allowed to have whom they wished.

RESTITVTOR REIPVBLICAE

St. Augustine most wisely says: “I think that you can see, at the same time, that there is nothing just and lawful in that temporal law, unless what men have gathered from this eternal law.” If, then, by anyone in authority, something be sanctioned out of conformity with the principles of right reason, and consequently hurtful to the commonwealth, such an enactment can have no binding force of law, as being no rule of justice, but certain to lead men away from that good which is the very end of civil society. Therefore, the nature of human liberty, however it be considered, whether in individuals or in society, whether in those who command or in those who obey, supposes the necessity of obedience to some supreme and eternal law, which is no other than the authority of God, commanding good and forbidding evil. And, so far from this most just authority of God over men diminishing, or even destroying their liberty, it protects and perfects it, for the real perfection of all creatures is found in the prosecution and attainment of their respective ends; but the supreme end to which human liberty must aspire is God.

These precepts of the truest and highest teaching, made known to us by the light of reason itself, the Church, instructed by the example and doctrine of her divine Author, has ever propagated and asserted; for she has ever made them the measure of her office and of her teaching to the Christian nations. As to morals, the laws of the Gospel not only immeasurably surpass the wisdom of the heathen, but are an invitation and an introduction to a state of holiness unknown to the ancients; and, bringing man nearer to God, they make him at once the possessor of a more perfect liberty. Thus, the powerful influence of the Church has ever been manifested in the custody and protection of the civil and political liberty of the people. The enumeration of its merits in this respect does not belong to our present purpose. It is sufficient to recall the fact that slavery, that old reproach of the heathen nations, was mainly abolished by the beneficent efforts of the Church. The impartiality of law and the true brotherhood of man were first asserted by Jesus Christ; and His apostles re-echoed His voice when they declared that in future there was to be neither Jew, nor Gentile, nor barbarian, nor Scythian, but all were brothers in Christ. So powerful, so conspicuous, in this respect is the influence of the Church that experience abundantly testifies how savage customs are no longer possible in any land where she has once set her foot; but that gentleness speedily takes the place of cruelty, and the light of truth quickly dispels the darkness of barbarism. Nor has the Church been less lavish in the benefits she has conferred on civilised nations in every age, either by resisting the tyranny of the wicked, or by protecting the innocent and helpless from injury, or, finally, by using her influence in the support of any form of government which commended itself to the citizens at home, because of its justice, or was feared by their enemies without, because of its power.

–  Leo XIII, Libertas

IotaChi

The admirable Peter Kwasniewski is always worth reading. He has written an article on OnePeterFive which is the exception that proves the rule. For this particular article, although I could hardly agree less with its central tenet, is certainly extremely stimulating. Dr Kwasniewski seeks to extol the virtues of monarchy as a system of government and insinuates that this claim is somehow connected to the Social Kingship of Christ. No such connection exists. The dogma of the Kingship of Christ should emphatically not be confused with the non-doctrinal question of which form of regime ought to be preferred, because this is specifically an indifferent matter on which the laity are free to chose whichever governmental form they consider best in itself and/or most suited to the character and customs of their particular society. As Leo XIII explains:

What amply justifies the wisdom of the Church is that in her relations with political powers she makes abstraction of the forms which differentiate them and treats with them concerning the great religious interests of nations, knowing that hers is the duty to undertake their tutelage above all other interests.

 and elsewhere

Again, it is not of itself wrong to prefer a democratic form of government, if only the Catholic doctrine be maintained as to the origin and exercise of power. Of the various forms of government, the Church does not reject any that are fitted to procure the welfare of the subject; she wishes only – and this nature itself requires – that they should be constituted without involving wrong to any one, and especially without violating the rights of the Church. Unless it be otherwise determined, by reason of some exceptional condition of things, it is expedient to take part in the administration of public affairs. And the Church approves of every one devoting his services to the common good, and doing all that he can for the defence, preservation, and prosperity of his country. Neither does the Church condemn those who, if it can be done without violation of justice, wish to make their country independent of any foreign or despotic power. Nor does she blame those who wish to assign to the State the power of self-government, and to its citizens the greatest possible measure of prosperity. The Church has always most faithfully fostered civil liberty, and this was seen especially in Italy, in the municipal prosperity, and wealth, and glory which were obtained at a time when the salutary power of the Church had spread, without opposition, to all parts of the State.

Undoubtedly the replacement of the original Feast of Christ the King was inspired by Maritainian errors, but the confusion of the question of regime with the non-negotiable question of the Social Kingship of Christ is itself one of the most fundamental of those errors. The list of royal saints supplied by Kwasniewski is not relevant. There is no question but that kings and queens can be saints, but what about St Severinus Boethius and St Thomas More and the multitude of non-aristocratic saints (such as St Francis) raised in the Mediaeval Italian republics? The Middle Ages were replete with polities of every shape and size. The transformation of them all into hereditary monarchies is an early modern and post-revolutionary phenomenon which coincided with the general secularisation of the West and precipitated the anti-Christian regimes of late modernity.

It is very odd indeed to claim that the rarity of saints under modern secular republics and constitutional monarchies indicates that these governmental forms themselves are detrimental to sanctity rather than that secularism is to blame (a secularism bred in the absolute monarchies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries). The theory of the ‘Divine Right of Kings’ is an anti-Catholic Protestant invention. It is dispiriting that Dr Kwasniewski lists the absolutist Charles I who died for the ‘protestant religion’ and the incompetent tyrant Nicholas II of Russia (both persecutors of the faithful) as saints.

The Angelic Doctor recommends a form of government composed in equal parts of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. St Augustine says that the ideal form of government is one in which a virtuous people chooses its own rulers. St Leo the Great declares ‘he who is over all should be chosen by all’. This indeed is the primitive and apostolic structure of the Church herself and yet Kwasniewski writes:

In a fallen world where all of our efforts are dogged by evil and doomed (eventually) to failure, Christian monarchy is, nevertheless, the best political system that has ever been devised or could ever be devised. As we can infer from its much greater antiquity and universality, it is the system most natural to human beings as political animals; it is the system most akin to the supernatural government of the Church; it is the system that lends itself most readily to collaboration and cooperation with the Church in the salvation of men’s souls.

It was the mixed polity if anything which was the characteristic governmental form of the Middle Ages and Aristotle considers pure monarchy to correspond to the primitive stage of human development when the polis has not yet fully emerged from the family or tribe. Kwasniewski employs the traditional royalist tactic of equivocating on the ancient and modern meanings of the word ‘democracy’, claiming that Plato and Aristotle (neither of whom would have described modern western states as ‘democracies’) “maintained that democracy, far from being a stable form of government, is always teetering on the edge of anarchy or tyranny”. For Plato and Aristotle ‘democracy’ meant a polity in which there was no chief executive of the state, the college of rulers was directly elected on a one-year term and the laws were enacted by plebiscite. This has nothing to do with ‘democracy’ in the modern sense. But, as it happens, monarchy is the only form of government expressly critiqued in the Bible (1 Samuel 8:5-20).

And they said to him: Behold thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: make us a king, to judge us, as all nations have. And the word was displeasing in the eyes of Samuel, that they should say: Give us a king, to judge us. And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel: Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to thee. For they have not rejected thee, but me, that I should not reign over them. According to all their works, they have done from the day that I brought them out of Egypt until this day: as they have forsaken me, and served strange gods, so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken to their voice: but yet testify to them, and foretell them the right of the king, that shall reign over them. Then Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people that had desired a king of him, And said: This will be the right of the king, that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and put them in his chariots, and will make them his horsemen, and his running footmen to run before his chariots, And he will appoint of them to be his tribunes, and centurions, and to plough his fields, and to reap his corn, and to make him arms and chariots. Your daughters also he will take to make him ointments, and to be his cooks, and bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your best oliveyards, and give them to his servants. Moreover he will take the tenth of your corn, and of the revenues of your vineyards, to give his eunuchs and servants. Your servants also and handmaids, and your goodliest young men, and your asses he will take away, and put them to his work. Your flocks also he will tithe, and you shall be his servants. And you shall cry out in that day from the face of the king, whom you have chosen to yourselves. and the Lord will not hear you in that day, because you desired unto yourselves a king. But the people would not hear the voice of Samuel, and they said: Nay: but there shall be a king over us. And we also will be like all nations.

The Lord accedes to the demands of the people but brings good out of evil by Himself taking flesh from the seed of David so that now the Lord is once more the King of Israel. Doubtless, this is why He translated the seat of the covenant to Rome. For, as St Thomas reminds us, “the royal name was hateful to the Romans”. Indeed, the perfect mixed form advocated by Aquinas (ST IaIIae, 105, 1) was first attempted by the Romans and identified by Polybius. It is praised by no less an authority than Scripture itself (1 Maccabees 8:14-16).

And none of all these [Romans] wore a crown, or was clothed in purple, to be magnified thereby. And that they made themselves a senate house, and consulted daily three hundred and twenty men, that sat in council always for the people, that they might do the things that were right. And that they committed their government to one man every year, to rule over all their country, and they all obey one, and there is no envy, nor jealousy amongst them.

“Has not the Church simply been demoted to the status of a private bowling league that can be permitted or suppressed at whim?” the good doctor laments, but it is the ‘enlightened’ depots of the eighteenth century who effected this transformation and the republicans of the Catholic League who foresaw and strove to prevent it. Surely, the doctrine of the Kingship of Christ understood in the light of these passages precisely suggests that a non-regal governmental form is the most fitting for the temporal government of the Christian people? As St Gregory the Great reminded the Emperor Phocas “the kings of the nations are the lords of slaves but the Emperor of the Republic is the lord of free men”.

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[Jan III Sobieski, by the grace of God and the will of the people, King of the Republic of Poland]

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The Ecumenical Councils of Trent and Vatican I and the Creed of Pius IV all require us to:

…accept the Holy Scripture according to that sense which holy mother the Church hath held, and doth hold, and to whom it belongeth to judge the true sense and interpretations of the Scriptures [and] never take and interpret them otherwise than according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.

If is often said that the Church has, in fact, only very rarely defined the precise meaning of a biblical passage. Whether or not that is true one clear instance of such a definition is the Bull Unam Sanctam which has very precise teaching concerning Luke 22:35-38 and John 18:11. In ordering the disciples to buy a sword if they had not one already, and in telling them that two swords are enough, and in ordering Peter to sheath his sword Our Lord laid out the precise nature of the jurisdiction of the sacramental hierarchy and  the Supreme Pontiff over the temporal power.

Both the temporal and the spiritual power are intrinsic to the Church. The spiritual sword is to be exercised for the specific ends for which the Church was instituted and by the members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. In contrast, the temporal sword must be exercised by members of the Church but cannot be wielded by the members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy (although they may confiscate it if it is misused and assign it to another) because it is not a means by which the specific ends of the Church may be advanced.

What rarely seems to attract much notice is the reason Our Lord gave for this arrangement:

And he said to them: When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, did you want anything? But they said: Nothing. Then said he unto them: But now he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise a scrip; and he that hath not, let him sell his coat, and buy a sword. For I say to you, that this that is written must yet be fulfilled in me: And with the wicked was he reckoned. For the things concerning me have an end. But they said: Lord, behold here are two swords. And he said to them, It is enough.

The apostles are told to obtain a sword because Christ will be treated as a criminal. As Our Lord also said at the Last Supper “the servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also.” The opposition between the Church and the world is such that the Apostles (and their successors) need to have the protection of force in order to function. Yet, a short time later when Peter uses his sword to try to defend the Lord he is rebuked. “Put up thy sword into thy scabbard”. The Apostles have two swords but they are permitted to wield only one. The word of God is in the power of the clergy the state is to be in the power of the laity.

How does this fit with the prohibition on coercive conversion? The temporal sword of Christendom is essentially defensive. It is not ‘for’ the Church as Boniface VIII insists, it is wielded ‘by’ the Church (the lay faithful). The essential purposes of the Church cannot be advanced by violence but the non-ordained members of the Church can use the temporal sword to defend the Church from external persecution. Once the state is no longer in the hands of the Church this is not possible. So long as the state is non-Christian the Church’s business lies in buying the sword (bringing the temporal order by consent into the possession of the Church). Once it is purchased the sword may be drawn – but only by the laity – to stave off temporal impediments to the operation of the spiritual sword. We do not live by the sword. The life of Christendom is established and maintained by the peaceful spreading of the Gospel. However, once that life has reached the highest temporal level of social organisation the temporal sword can and should be drawn in its defence.

As St Cyril of Alexandria teaches:

He says sell his cloak, and buy a sword: for henceforth the question with all those who continue in the land will not be whether they possess anything or not, but whether they can exist and preserve their lives. For war shall befall them with such unendurable impetuosity, that nothing shall be able to stand against it.

At the beginning of the Song of Roland Charlemagne (in deference to his council) seeks to negotiate a temporal peace with Islam. He seeks to keep his cloak instead of buying a sword. He forgets the truth that he remembers later in the midst of battle with the Emir of Babylon: “Never to Paynims may I show love or peace.” The Lord tells us “the things concerning me have an end” there is no new revelation to dispense us from the unremitting opposition of the world. As Leo XIII teaches “Christians are born for combat”. The faithful must sell their cloaks and buy a sword because the state cannot simply be left in the hands of the pagans if the Church is to survive. This is why the Song ends with a weary Emperor roused from his bed by St Gabriel to carry on the war. He sought not first the Kingdom of God and His justice and so earthly peace is taken from him until he learns his lesson.

 

St Augustine:

As the ointment on the head, which descended to the beard, to Aaron’s beard, which descended to the fringe of his garment. What was Aaron? A priest. Who is a priest, except that one Priest, who entered into the Holy of Holies? Who is that priest, save Him, who was at once Victim and Priest? save Him who when he found nothing clean in the world to offer, offered Himself? The ointment is on his head, because Christ is one whole with the Church, but the ointment comes from the head. Our Head is Christ crucified and buried; He rose again, and ascended into heaven; and the Holy Spirit came from the head. Whither? To the beard. The beard signifies the courageous; the beard distinguishes the grown men, the earnest, the active, the vigorous. So that when we describe such, we say, he is a bearded man. Thus that ointment descended first upon the Apostles, descended upon those who bore the first assaults of the world, and therefore the Holy Spirit descended on them. For they who first began to dwell together in unity, suffered persecution, but because the ointment descended to the beard, they suffered, but were not conquered…. (in Ps. 132)

 

St Thomas Aquinas:

It is becoming for those who apply themselves to the Divine ministry to be shaven, and to be tonsured in the form of a crown by reason of the shape. Because a crown is the sign of royalty; and of perfection, since it is circular; and those who are appointed to the Divine service acquire a royal dignity and ought to be perfect in virtue. It is also becoming to them as it involves the hair being taken away: both from the higher part of the head by the tonsure, lest their mind be hindered by temporal occupations from contemplating Divine things, and from the lower part by shaving, lest their senses be entangled in temporal things (Suppl. 40, 1).

I’m not sure how to overcome this aporia, unless we think that Hanon in 1 Sam. 10 had the right idea by shaving off one half of the beards of David’s servants. However, Cornelius a Lapide says that this episode represents the Jews plucking off hairs from Christ’s beard during the Passion, or the devil stripping religious men of their courage, so that does not seem promising. I suppose we have to say that per se it is better for a man, especially a Christian, to possess a beard, at least in this life, but per accidens, e.g. because of a particular need to signify something else, it may become better to be shaved (and tonsured). I say ‘in this life’ because Aelianus tells me that the earliest depictions of our Lord present Him as risen and beardless, in token of eternal youth, and suggests that this may be the ‘other form’ which hindered people from recognising Him after the resurrection.

I presume that the historical reason why priests in the west have generally been shaven is Romanitas. Eastern rite priests of course often have beards, and I have a theory that the East-West division here is a providential counterbalance to the characteristics of their respective liturgies. That is, the Eastern liturgies put before us in particular the glory of the resurrection, so it is fitting that their priests be bearded, to preserve some suggestion of the trials and labours of this life as well, lest we float off into unreality. On the other hand, the Roman rite is more stark and sacrificial, so perhaps there is a danger that adding beards as well might make it too much for some people to take. I hope these are not irreverent thoughts.

Napoleon Bonaparte is the great tragedy of Arthurian Republicanism. The French Revolution overthrew the useless Teutonic parasite that was the Second Estate of the Ancien Regime. Alas for Henry IV! If the heretic king of Navarre had not decided to accept the Mass in exchange for Paris, if Philip II had not insisted that his daughter – the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia – marry a Habsburg, the French Republic might have been founded in 1589 on the basis of the Holy Catholic Faith instead of the pestilential errors of the ‘Enlightenment’. And yet, a wonderful opportunity presented itself when the Corsican general sought to make peace with Pius VII and to restore the meritocratic monarchy swept away by the Sicambrians, Welches and other savages from the woods and swamps of ancient Germany. The foul Talleyrand persuaded the First Consul to recognise Catholicism not as the one true religion but merely as that of the Consul himself and that of the greater number of the French people. A still more wonderful opportunity presented itself when Bonaparte sought the purple and the blessing of the Pope to do so. Napoleon then committed two further terrible errors: he took the title ‘French’ and not ‘Roman’ Emperor and he made his office hereditary. Thus, he tied his laurels to a mere nation and fell back into the blood superstition of the barbarians.

As Beethoven declared “He, too, then, is nothing better than an ordinary man! Now he will trample on all human rights only to humour his ambition; he will place himself above all others,–become a tyrant!” If only Napoleon had restrained himself then the Church might have been forever liberated from the dead weight of the deposed ‘aristocracy’ endlessly demanding that the Lay faithful waste their energies labouring to restore the Ancien Regime instead of the Kingship of Christ, the privileges of the descendants of Alaric and Attila instead of those of Holy Mother Church. If only Napoleon had remained faithful to the Republic then Leo XIII might not have had to expend himself trying to get the obstinate French royalists to rally to it. As Belloc saw “When you have reconciled these two things – I mean the high Stoicism of the Republic and the humility of the Church (for they can co-exist) – then you will have the perfect state.” Of course, St Hippolytus foresaw that the Antichrist would restore the Roman Empire to the government it enjoyed at the time of Augustus, so if Napoleon had done all these things he would no doubt have proved to be the Antichrist in person and not merely a warm-up act. But this does not mean that these priceless acts would not have been in themselves the right things to do. As Pius VII taught as bishop of Imola,

“Strive to attain to the full height of virtue and you will be true democrats. Fulfill faithfully the precepts of the Gospel and you will be the joy of the Republic.”

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